To date, most new vaccines against Mycobacterium tuberculosis, including new recombinant versions of the current BCG vaccine, have usually been screened against the laboratory strains H37Rv or Erdman. In this study we took advantage of our recent work in characterizing an increasingly large panel of newly emerging clinical isolates [from the United States or from the Western Cape region of South Africa], to determine to what extent vaccines would protect against these [mostly high virulence] strains. We show here that both BCG Pasteur and recombinant BCG Aeras-422 [used here as a good example of the new generation BCG vaccines] protected well in both mouse and Guinea pig low dose aerosol infection models against the majority of clinical isolates tested. However, Aeras-422 was not effective in a long term survival assay compared to BCG Pasteur. Protection was very strongly expressed against all of the Western Cape strains tested, reinforcing our viewpoint that any attempt at boosting BCG would be very difficult to achieve statistically. This observation is discussed in the context of the growing argument made by others that the failure of a recent vaccine trial disqualifies the further use of animal models to predict vaccine efficacy. This viewpoint is in our opinion completely erroneous, and that it is the fitness of prevalent strains in the trial site area that is the centrally important factor, an issue that is not being addressed by the field.
Henao-Tamayo, M., Shanley, C. A., Verma, D., Zilavy, A., Stapleton, M. C., Furney, S. K., … Orme, I. M. (2015). The efficacy of the BCG vaccine against newly emerging clinical strains of mycobacterium tuberculosis. PLoS ONE, 10(9). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0136500